Wislawa Szymborska Nobel Prize for Literature
Born in 1923, Szymborska is a Polish poet.
Winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature, Szymborska, a private—some would say reclusive—widow, has been described as "the Mozart of poetry … [with] something of the fury of Beethoven." Although she is perhaps Poland's most popular female writer and valued as a national treasure there, she is little known by English-speaking readers, and only three books of her poetry have been translated: Sounds, Feelings, Thoughts (1981); People on a Bridge (1986); and View with a Grain of Sand (1995). "Polish poetry in the 20th century has reached a strong international position on the European continent," observed renowned Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz. "Szymborska represents it well." Szymborska emphasizes and examines the chance happenings of daily life and of personal relations in her poetry, which spans five decades. "She is a master at recognizing the importance of the insignificant …," explained James Beschta, "it is the innovative, playful use of language that dominates her style." While Szymborska treats a wide variety of subjects in as many different styles, her method remains constant: her lyrics usually build from some small detail, then expand into revelations about the larger universe. Szymborska published her first poem in 1945, but she later renounced her first two volumes of poetry as attempts to conform to tenets of social realism. The Swedish Academy acknowledged that it awarded the Nobel Prize to her on the basis of her poems written since 1957, when she published her third collection, Calling out to the Yeti, which the Academy cited as a reaction against Stalin. "Of course, life crosses politics, but my poems are strictly not political," Szymborska said in a rare interview. "They are more about people and life." Beata Chmiel concluded that the Nobel was given "to an unknown poet of Poland, but this poet can be very close to people all over the world: men, women, black and white."